O’Brien: Chicago’s top eighth grader heads to Kentucky for high school experience

Marquise Walker became a YouTube basketball sensation when he was 8 years old. Michael Jordan has watched him play, ESPN’s Outside The Lines has done a segment on him. It’s all been part of a carefully choreographed marketing campaign by his father Chikosi Walker.

So far the 14-year-old is living up to the hype. He’s considered one of the top 25 players in the national class of 2019 and is the top-ranked player in Illinois.

“I love it,” said Marquise Walker. “I love good attention, I love being noticed, I’m grateful for being noticed.”

Walker, a 5-10 point guard, averaged 35 points at Stevenson Middle School in Melrose Park. He played eighth grade ball as a seventh grader. Chikosi Walker doesn’t see any point in his son playing another season at that level, so he’s made a bold decision.

Marquise is moving to Bowling Green, Kentucky. He’ll attend South Warren Middle School and be the starting point guard at South Warren High School. Middle school students are allowed to play high school basketball in Kentucky.

“Playing eighth grade again would waste a year of development,” said Chikosi Walker. “He would be the best player on the court every game and won’t get better. He’s an alpha dog. It’s a no-win situation playing eighth grade ball. You have to see him play to understand what I mean. He hits another level when he plays against the best players in the country.”

Walker said South Warren is a much better school than Stevenson, so the move makes academic sense as well. He plans to spend as much time as possible with his son in Kentucky.

“I’m self-employed so I have a lot of flexibility,” said Chikosi Walker. “I’m getting an apartment down here, they are pretty cheap. I’ve been looking the last couple days. We are in an extended stay hotel for a week or so. I’ll be back and forth throughout the year. I work in real estate, I own some properties and have passive income so I don’t have to be (in Chicago) all the time.”

Chikosi Walker has good friends in the Bowling Green area and his grandfather lives there, so there will be plenty of people to look after Marquise. The plan is to spend one year in Kentucky getting high school playing experience and then return to the Chicago area for four years of high school ball.

“He should be able to step in and start on one of the best teams in the Chicago area as a freshman next year,” said Chikosi Walker. “He’s wide-open for high schools, it has to be the best situation where he can play and qualify for college.”


Walker says his son has already received interest from St. Joseph, Curie, North Lawndale, Simeon, DePaul Prep, Seton and Marshall. The colleges have come calling as well. Marquise is taking an unofficial visit to Western Kentucky this weekend and plans to visit Iowa State soon.

“(Marquise) is a great kid, he’s hard working and pretty humble off the court,” said Kyle Mason, Walker’s AAU coach at Meanstreets. “We’ll see how it goes in Kentucky. I think that’s a real big move.”

It’s certainly a unique move. Former Young player LJ Peak played varsity basketball as a junior high kid in South Carolina before moving to Chicago, but Walker is the first high-profile Chicago player to leave the area to get high school experience while still in junior high.

Walker has faith in his father’s decision, and like so many recent area phenoms he has a clear vision of his future.

“I want a lot of offers from different schools,” said Marquise Walker. “I want to get a scholarship from college, I want to be a McDonald’s All-American, have great grades and stay on task. And of course I want to play professionally. That’s it really. And make my family proud.”


Walker isn’t the first area player to enter the limelight pre-high school. Ryan Boatwright famously committed to USC before he had chosen his high school. Cully Payne committed to DePaul in eighth grade. Back in the ’90s, Sports Illustrated named Chicago’s Mike Irvin the top 11-year-old in the country. All three went on to be good high school players, but college and NBA success doesn’t always follow the early hype.

“A parent has a right to do what they want to do with their kid,” said Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin, Mike’s brother. “Most of the big names in the past have waited their turn, this is a different move. I think he’s a great ballplayer, he has a chance to be really good, a special player.”

One website has already pegged Marquise Walker as Kentucky’s top junior high talent since O.J. Mayo.

“Those are big shoes to fill,” said Chikosi Walker. “But (Marquise) plays a real exciting style of ball. He has a natural flair that should get the fans to like him, get crowds to come see him play. He can pass the ball really well and shoot the ball, he can shoot those long bombs.”

All the pieces seem to be in place for Walker. He has talent and a father willing to make drastic moves to give his son every advantage.

“(My dad) is awesome,” said Walker. “He’s always around to make sure I don’t get in any trouble. I think it’s a good idea to come here to Kentucky, being with these high schoolers will help me grow as a man.”

It’s possible Walker’s move could start a trend. Kentucky isn’t that far away and a year of high school basketball slightly out of the Chicago spotlight could help a player gain valuable experience acclimating to the speed of the high school game.

“The ultimate challenge is to play with older kids at a faster pace,” said Chikosi Walker. “He’s played at such a high level in AAU ball that he can’t play at a lower level anymore and have the same intensity. He isn’t going to get better doing that.”

Wherever Marquise Walker winds up next year, it will be interesting to see him play. There have been more than a dozen young phenoms in Chicago over the past decade, but never a freshman with one year of varsity experience already under his belt.



    This is Motivation. Marquise Is Reading This to and its motivation. This is a kid that love basketball. And works hard on the court and in the classroom. Failure is not a option. He’s a good kid and his father want what’s best. But these comments is not wassup. But I know its motivation.

  • L. Booker

    @Vashon, I totally agree with you man, but I don’t think his dad will see it that way. All he cares about is the hype and the hoops. Sad situation.

  • Vashon

    @L Booker, the criticisms out here are not about the kid. He’s just that, a kid, and he is not responsible for any of this, he’s just following the lead of the adults in his life. IF there was criticisms to be tossed about maybe they should be at O’Brien for writing an article about a kid who is clearly too old to be competing against the kids he plays against. Maybe it’s the adults in his life who have clearly chosen basketball over academics. If what his dad says is true about his academic testing being so low that he needed to be held back, then maybe the kid should be studying at times when he’s in the gym. Who knows?This much I DO know, it won’t matter how good he is as a player, if he can’t qualify to be a college student.

  • L. Booker

    Marquise is still only a kid, so lets not be mean to the kid. He is a pretty good player. I just have one question. I’m not to familiar with IHSA rules, but isn’t it against the rules for chicago high schools to recruit. The dad said in the sun-times article that Marquise has received interest from Curie, North Lawndale, Seton, Simeon, and Marshall. Looks like recruiting to me.

  • Hoop Coach37

    Mr. Walker, the way you are going back and forth with people would make one think that you are a 16yr old. Your son is good, but not this superstar like you and the pointless websites putting him out there to be. He’s good, so just keep him in the gym trying to get better. Don’t turn your son into a young player who thinks he is the best in the world, when he is not even the best in the chicago area. Keep him grounded.

  • c walker

    vashon if you read my first post he played aau against 2017 in front of college coaches and lit it up. Secondly, he has only played against 2019 in aau season because he’s ranked against that class not because i want the easy way out. Third, he played 14u with meanstreets but you gotta ask the other guards and the coach what happened the game after he came off the bench and put in work and the scouts pulled him instead of the starting pg for a pic. 4th i requested to play with 15u also with meanstreets but was rejected. He would have been best pg on that team. So back to where we started. He’s playing varsity ball this year. We aint thinking about 8th graders and middleshcool ball. If he struggles so be it. Not scared to fail and it will only make him better. We don’t hide we compete.

  • c walker

    yep u right he was at St. Joseph. Trying to get better. So it’s pickup against 8th graders or play against the 2nd rated PG in the state? What would you do. The first day he struggled, the second he was so-so, the third solid, the fourth pretty good. He keeps getting better. No shame just accepting all challenges. That’s why he was there. But did i fail to mention 2 coaches pulled him to the side and said if you quit playing with the ball so much you can blow by anyone in our gym? Also did I fail to mention that Nick and Glyn where all over him constantly mentoring him on how to become a better player? Invaluable experience so LOOKOUT he’s getting better everyday. SMH you gotta do better than that.

  • LookOUT

    You should have been at St. Joseph last week. Marquise played against Glenn Watson and a kid name Jason Towers, after watching him go head to head againt them, he may need a another year in grade school. Good player yes, phenom no!

  • vashon

    @mr walker, and I’ll keep this solely about basketball. If he was held back in school, why is he playing a year younger in AAU? A kid can be held back a year in school, for whatever the reason, but his age can’t be. It would stand to reason that if he’s 14 he should be playing with and against 14 year-olds, if for no other reason competition.

  • c walker

    LOL @coach smith @scott – get your facts straight. Marquise went to public school in chicago and when we got to melrose and we put him in private school Marquise tested so low that my wife put him back for academic purposes and because she felt he had maturity issues from being a sheltered prodigy. But really that’s none of your damned business. The business is on the court and he is better than any freshman guard in Chicago. I’ve always said it and will keep on. He’s the best in 2019 or 2018 and he was a top player before he repeated. Check the tapes. He played 2017 and winning state championships when all the others were playing 2018 for they daddies. Check the resume before you run your mouth. And he is 5’9.5 and I’m 5’6.5 but his mother is 6’0. LOL and SMH get your own damn writeup for your kid and stop hating on my son. Remember 10 different scouting services aint lying for him. Get your weight cause yall just local talent.

  • Coach Smith

    People on here bashing the kid. Its not the kids fault that he’s in this situation. His dad is the reason for this circus. Holding your kid back in school for the sake of him being a top player. If he’s good enough, he will make it in the end anyway. You as a father should be pushing academics first, but that clearly is not what you are thinking. Marquise is a good player right now, but not great. He is also not that tall, he looks like he is around 5’7/5’8, and I’m not sure how much he will grow because if you’ve seen his dad, he’s only like 5’4. Special players all be special. You can’t make them special. Just be a good dad to your son, and don’t set him up for something that may come back and hit him and you in the face. He has to much time to grow, or not. But good luck on your journey.

  • Scott

    The kid can play. No doubt about that. But everyone that knows him, knows that his dad held him back in school for basketball reasons. Who knows, he may go on to be a great player, or he may not grow another inch(he looks more like 5’8)and just be a good player. The kid has years to get better, and grow, so lets just see what happens. I think his dad is so far off the mark that he is doing things all wrong. Holding your kid back in school, so he can be the top basketball player in his grade. If you ask me, NOT TOO SMART, but good luck to the kid.

  • PistolPete44

    Play 8th grade where you should.

  • James Langley

    How can a junior high basketball player living in Melrose Park before the move to KY receive any interest for High School from schools like Simeon, Curie and North Lawndale all CPS Schools???? Proviso West

  • Jim

    too much parental involvement -and mostly from non players who think they know basketball….hype kills promising young athletes, just a fact, …..if you gonna hype anything, hype great academics…instill confidence ….more scholarships in academics than ever in basketball …and a great future in a career in business

  • Vashon

    Stop It! It bothers me that we can’t ask a question or disagree without being accused of hating. Which is just a way of deflecting from the issue at hand. Again, I am only asking a question, if this kid is as good as some believe he is, why doesn’t he play with his peers in his age group? At this stage of a kid’s development that year or two makes a huge difference in outcome. That’s not about ‘hating’, I don’t believe there’s anything that situation that’s worthy of hating on.

  • Tim from Evanston

    Wow folks does it matter? If he is older than his grade should be, that has been happening for years. You guys act like this is the first time that would happen. We as African Americans need to stop hating on our own and encourage these kids. This kid and his father are trying to do the right thing for the kid, let them do what they do. Time will tell if he becomes something in high school or not. I for one hope he takes his talent as far as he can take it. Do what you need to do Mr Walker.

  • User

    Kid can play. Period. One of the best out there. That’s a fact. Anything else..in the words of my man Charles Barkley is “uncivilized”. Stop the hate. Either support or ignore. Thanks

  • chikosi walker

    Scared of who? Can’t see who? Only play against his reclassed grade. Lol Check my son resume. BTW how many of these guys he scared of gonna be on an unofficail visit to a Div. 1 university? How many guards in 2019 or 2018 playing varsity or just dressing varsity? Yall real funny. This from a 15u tourney with a bunch of 16 year old players. Read and weep. He can do it all against anybody, anytime, anywhere. Get used to it. Marquise Walker – PG – George Hill – Walker who runs with the Meanstreets joined George Hill for the weekend and made most of it. Playing up two levels Marquise didn’t seem to mind as he dropped 21 points on the eventual champion King James. Walker has a lot of confidence and is great coming off high ball screens and making plays. Walker also has the ability to light it up from outsides as he knocked down numerous three balls in the game. Chicago produces a lot of great PG’s and Walker is the best I’ve seen so far in the 2019 class.

  • Icemike921

    It bothers me ,that some people on here are hating on this man,and its probley because they don’t like his father,,who can be a hand full at times, but has gotten better over the years know this because ive coached this young man since he was in 4th grade, and he always played up a grade level with me and handled his own, winning a AAU State Title as a 5th grader on the 12U level with back court mate Alonzo Verge,. So I know the sky is the limit for this kid,,I’ve been coaching high level aau for over 15 years now and have a host of kids playing D1 Hoops, and I can truly tell you Walker is the best PG ive been blest to COACH,,,,Good Luck

  • Darnell

    @Handy, but not 14U when he’s almost 15. I’m not getting it.

  • T. Hall

    @Michael O’Brien, It doesn’t happen in wrestling here in Illinois much because our competition is great at all levels. What does happen in Illinois is holding students back

  • Ben

    Isnt that an old 7th grader??? I mean he will be playing a 19 year old Senior and some states don’t allow that so they might want to double check where he ends up playing.

  • SW Burbs Hoops Fan

    I hope the kid makes it. Hopefully his work ethic transcends to academics, just in case he isn’t the next LeBron.

  • Handy

    @Vashon Marquise plays against High School Players, college players

  • Vashon

    @W3, If what you say is true, the kid’ll 15 in 8th grade. He played 13U this summer and he was 14. So is he an alpha dog or is he just older than the kids he’s competing against? My question is how good would he be if he was playing against kids his age?

  • Tarrance Crump

    Marquise is a special basketball playe around him since he was 2yrs old and I knew then he would be a great one. I think it was a good decision for him to move to me yuck to face high school competition. It will only make him better. The hate needs to stop. It’s like a disease these days. It’s sad that everyone want to see you fail. Keep grinding and let the haters motivate. The real people know what’s ahead. My future point guard

  • jim

    sad sad sad……..kid has some talent, but why the overexposure …..9 out of 10 of these jr high phenoms have trouble adjusting when they game gets tougher ……..

  • Ty Kish

    I know the math is tough here but if he’s 14 now he would be 18 starting his senior year….


    Marquise Walker is a real good player. IQ, ball handling, passing, shooting, and he is exciting to watch, he has it. Once his athletic ability kick in and he continues to get stronger and jump higher, you will see more amazing plays. No matter what age, he can play, there isn’t an eighth, ninth, or tenth grader that has the ability to do it all as a point guard like Marquise. He is already bigger than a lot of point guards and quicker than big guards. Not taking anything away from other guards in Chicago because they are pretty good too, but everyone is witnessing history in the making, a story to be talked about. Marquise Walker is special. He works real hard, so the best kept secret is no longer a secret. Marquise Walker

  • Money

    To whom it may concern: I know Marquise, and he’s a great kid and basketball player. He works hard in the gym to get where he is now. To all his HATER do better, til then give props where they are do. GREAT JOB to the Walkers. Keep up the good work.

  • Minister Ju aka Michael

    @Vashon for you to spread propaganda and rumors without displaying any evidence makes you a sensationalist. I’ve watched this child develop his game over the years with the guidance and love of his father, and you as a critic have not made one reference to his skill set just some outlandish babble. To regain favor and any credibility you need to apologize and congratulate this outstanding student/athlete. Go Marquise!

  • W3

    @ Vashon, Marquise O. Walker is 14, December 5, 1999, since your checking all the records birth records and public records also!

  • Vashon

    Finally @JP, google his name and you’ll see that ESPN had him the class of 2018 a couple years ago and now he’s in 2019. What some of you guys don’t realize is that he has a mental and physical advantage playing against kids two years his junior. He won’t have that in two years. Just like the 2018 class caught up with him, so will the 2019 class. And at Chikosi, I would never suggest to a man how to raise his son. Run your show

  • Eddie

    Why does he think he can take a varsity spot over a experienced player already on the team ? He may be good but to think he is going to be given the position without competing for it. Besides if he is only staying one year what stupid coach would prevent developing a player already on the team for the long haul that will be there longer than one year. But at 14 years of age he should be a freshman, so why does he not just take a test that would qualify him to be a freshman at his high school where he is at now?

  • Vashon

    @JP, I know EXACTLY who the kid is. He played on the T’Wolves a few years ago with a friend of the family and that kid is a junior in high school right now. Everyone on that team knew he was playing up a year. So yes I know the kid.

  • Samson McWherter

    I feel the need to say that this is one of the best players I’ve had in my gym. I’ve trained him right aside of NBA pro Sherron Collins and 2 time Canadian defensive player of the year Al Stewert and this kid fits right in. Anything negative to say about this incredible young man is just a reflection on yourself. One day Walker will be a bigger nationwide star and you’ll just have a sour taste in your mouth. That is of course unless uou love our youth and this incredible game. Mr. Walker you are doing a fantastic job and your son is a bright star.

  • JP

    I’ve known this kid pretty much all of his life. And 1 thing I do know is that this kid has the ability to be great! I’ve seen this kid make grown men look foolish! @ cp3 we not ducking anybody from the city! I agree with you, there is a lot of talented kids in the city, but it not Marquise fault that he’s being recognized nationally! To be honest with you, he is the SHOW! Besides he’s been playing an 8th grade level since the 5th and 6th grade. And playing at an 8th grade level is not going to make him any better. I think it’s a good move! @Vashon you know how this kid really is? LOL U JUST ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN…

  • Scott

    I agree. Even if he were 14, he should be a freshman in high school. If he were to follow his fathers schedule, he’ll be 19 starting his senior year and turning 20 during the year. Jabari Parker started his freshman year at Duke at 18 and turned 19 in March..

  • Jp

    I’ve known this kid pretty much all of his life. And 1 thing I know for sure is that this kid has the talent to be great! This kid is a major competitor and doesn’t shay away from any challenge! @ cp3 we not ducking anybody from the city! I agree with you, there are a lot of talented kids in the city. But it’s not Marquise fault because he’s being recognized nationally! The truth of the matter is, he is the show! And playing at the 8th grade level, in which he’s been doing since 5th and 6th grade ain’t gonna make him any better. He’s pretty much going to dominate at that level. If you ask me, I think it’s a good move! @Vashon I guess the real Marquise walker huh? Lol YOU ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN

  • Anonymous

    At the end of the day everybody does what they feel is best for them and their family. If he feels that the competition level is better that’s his choice. Now anyone who disagrees can work on getting the level of recognition Marquise gets for their child or player. Until then sounds like hating to me.

  • Kim Larry

    Great job cousin ……continue doing what you are doing ….the family is very proud of you Marcus ,keep up the good work

  • Buddy Buckley

    I believe Marquise is an great basketball player and one hell of a young man. If people kids was doing have of what this kids is doing they will be proud just like we are of Marquise. So stop negative talk and be proud of a young man progress One Love Buddy

  • Ty Kish

    Marquise is one of the best scorers in middle school basketball. If Marquise and his father want him to play high school competition that’s not a bad thing. While some players dodge elite level players Marquise has always went head to head with other top guards and embraced competition. Making a choice in where you play high school basketball is a very important decision. If fan boys want kids to play at certain high schools that’s their own issue, but kids should go to whatever school is best for their education and furthering their basketball careers. If a kid went to a certain high school because it had a superior science program everyone would support them. Realistically kids who play sports are going to go to whatever school offers them the best opportunities. Everyone who has seen Marquise this spring and summer has raved about his improvement. Let’s see how things play out. So far Marquise has been able to rise to the occasion when challenged.

  • Buddy

    I think people should mind they own business and leave Marquise alone. He is a great kid and a hell of a basketball player, Every time someone is doing great things it is always someone trying to bring them down. If your child was doing have of what this young man is doing you want be saying negative things about him. Get a job a life and mine yours real talk

  • B-Fan

    Come to Argo H.S, Great stadium facility need a blue chip player like you to get back on top like the 80’s, When we had Ray Thompson and Joe griffin….

  • chikosi walker

    @vashon smh your sadly misinformed. please worry about your own child. my son is in the 8th grade and ill do with him as i wish but i thankyou for your concern. peace be with you.

  • CP3

    Marquise Walker is an extremely talented kid, but……the most talented 8th grader………I’m not so sure. Those in the know on the AAU circuit in Illinois have witnessed him vs “true” 8th graders and can confirm he has had his hands full. He is NOT leaving the Chicago area for lack of competition at his current grade level or the current freshman class. O’Brien their are a plethora of 8th graders from all sides of Chicago. I know of 2 he doesn’t want to see again this particular year in my town. I find the “list” of high schools interesting for who isn’t on the list. But, if he returns……to the CITY OF GUARDS we will see soon

  • Scott

    The idea that “he’s wide open for high schools” in Chicago shows how the state championships are a joke. There should be divisions for non-boundary schools, public schools that openly recruit, and then the rest. How about just playing for the high school you live by right now? What a novel idea… This is one reason why interest has died at the state tournament. Who is interested in watching the same schools year after year who just openly recruit kids? Seeing as the attendance keeps dropping, I guess the answer is ‘no one’.

  • Vashon

    I’ve known this kid for years and he is not 14 years old. He’s been ‘reclassified’ twice. He should be a sophomore in high school right now. His dad knows that anyone that knows the kid knows that. There are more than likely taking him there because they don’t know how this child really is.

  • Michael O'Brien

    Thanks for the info Bruce, that’s interesting. Haven’t heard that happening in wrestling with Illinois kids yet, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t.

  • Bruce

    It may be uncommon in basketball, but in a sport like wrestling this happens with one or two kids every year. Mark Hall, currently of Minnesota, moved to Kentucky for his 6th grade year so he could wrestle varsity.

  • Terry

    This is crazy. Why is there a need to play top competition as an 8th grader? He hasnt finished growing yet

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